SAN ANTONIO - Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia worldwide. It is characterized by a reduction in the number of healthy red blood cells produced in the body. This occurs when the body has a depleted supply of iron. Iron is an important building block for red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. A decrease in healthy red blood cells may result in a myriad of unpleasant symptoms and in some cases, may lead to severe health consequences.
Iron deficiency anemia can be the result of various and multiple causes. Significant blood loss results in an increased need for iron. Heavy menstrual periods make anemia especially prevalent in women. Estimates suggest that 20% of women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anemia. Other causes of heavy bleeding that may lead to iron loss include cancer, ulcers, esophageal varices, or a prolonged use of aspirin, ibuprofen or arthritis medications.
Iron deficiency can also be the result of a diet that is lacking in a sufficient intake of iron. Children, teens and pregnant women require more iron, making them more susceptible to anemia. In some cases, the body is not capable of absorbing enough iron which may also lead to an iron deficiency. This may occur if an individual has Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or has had gastric bypass surgery.
The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can vary greatly in intensity. Common symptoms may include irritability, brittle nails, fatigue, dizziness, pale skin, cravings for things that are not food such as ice, dirt or starch, frequent infections and sore tongue. In severe cases, chest pain or difficulty breathing may be the result of iron deficiency anemia. If left untreated, iron deficiency anemia can lead to heart problems such as a rapid, irregular heartbeat, pregnancy complications such as premature births or low birth weight, or delayed growth and development in children.
Anemia can often be diagnosed with blood tests that measure hematocrit, hemoglobin and ferritin levels in the blood. Once anemia has been diagnosed, further diagnostic tests such as a colonoscopy, endoscopy, ultrasound or fecal occult blood test may be performed to investigate the underlying causes of the condition.
Treatment of iron deficiency anemia is dependent upon the underlying cause of the disorder. Typically, oral iron supplements will be recommended to replenish the body’s iron source. If an individual’s body cannot tolerate oral iron, intravenous iron or an injection into the muscle is a secondary option. Iron levels will not increase overnight, but with adequate treatment, blood counts are likely to return to normal in about 2 months.
The risk of iron deficiency can be greatly reduced by implementing a healthy diet rich in iron. An iron-rich diet should include foods such as meats, fish, eggs, soybeans, nuts, whole grain breads, spinach, kale and other greens. It is also important to choose foods that are high in vitamin C, a vitamin known to enhance iron absorption.
Clinical Trials of Texas, Inc. is currently conducting a research study for men and women with iron deficiency anemia who remain anemic despite oral iron therapy or who have a history of intolerance to oral iron. If you would like to learn more about this trial, please call 210-949-0122 or visit us at SAresearch.com